Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Lime Spatula

Mutuaga (1860–1920)
Papua New Guinea, Suau region, Milne Bay Province
Wood, lime
H. 24 1/2 in. (62.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Dr. Oliver E. and Pamela F. Cobb, 2008
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
The identities of the individuals who created the vast majority of Oceanic sculpture
remain unknown. A notable exception is Mutuaga, a master carver who lived and
worked in Dagodagoisu village in the Massim region at the turn of the twentieth
century. Mutuaga’s unique carving style is recognizable by its distinctive rendition
of the human figure and the elegance and precision of its surface ornamentation.
Mutuaga created objects for local use and, beginning in the 1890s, developed
a relationship with Charles Abel of the London Missionary Society. Abel became
Mutuaga’s patron and promoted his work among the growing numbers of
European missionaries, traders, and visitors in the area. Lime spatulas typically
were used to facilitate the chewing of betel nut, a mild stimulant. As this example
is too large to have served a practical function, it may have been used locally as
a ceremonial object or was perhaps intended for a European client.
Abel family, Wellington, New Zealand; [Unknown dealer, Wellington, New Zealand]; [Unknown dealer, Auckland, New Zealand, acquired by 1996]; [Andrew Pendergrast, Auckland, New Zealand]; John Ioannou, Melbourne, Australia; [Kirby Kallas-Lewis, Seattle, WA, from ca. 2003]; Oliver E. Cobb, Seattle, WA, until 2008

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